Judge in Castile case writes letter to jurors

The judge who presided over the manslaughter trial of a Minnesota police officer acquitted in the fatal shooting of black motorist Philando Castile took the unusual step of writing to the jurors to tell them that he supports them despite widespread public criticism of their verdict.

“I write to reassure you that you faithfully fulfilled the difficult task you were asked to undertake,” Ramsey County District Judge William Leary III said in his letter to the jury, the Star Tribune of Minneapolis reported Tuesday.

The judge told jurors he was not providing his own opinion of St. Anthony officer Jeronimo Yanez’s actions during the fatal traffic stop last July in the St. Paul suburb of Falcon Heights, but wanted to convey that their verdict “was fully supported by a fair interpretation of the evidence and the law you were obligated to apply.”

The verdict on June 16 sparked a rally at the State Capitol, which gave way to a march through St. Paul that shut down light-rail service and ended with a confrontation with authorities on Interstate 94.

Leary sent his letter a few days after authorities released dramatic dashboard-camera video showing the Latino officer firing seven shots at the 32-year-old elementary school cafeteria worker in a matter of seconds, just after Castile informed Yanez he was armed. The shooting gained widespread attention after Castile’s girlfriend, who was in the car with her then-4-year-old daughter, live-streamed its gruesome aftermath on Facebook.

During his trial, Yanez, 29, testified that Castile ignored his commands not to pull out his gun. The officer said he feared for his life.

— Associated Press

Gunmen kill three in holdup at barbershop

Three people are dead and one wounded after an apparent after-hours holdup by two gunmen at a barbershop, Alabama police said.

People in the Hook-Up Barber and Style Shop in Prattville, about 13 miles northwest of Montgomery, identified one of the gunmen, but the other man’s face was covered, Police Chief Mark Thompson told news outlets.

He said the pair knocked on the shop’s door late Monday, and people inside let them in because they knew Marty Morgan, 35, of Prattville. Police are now searching for Morgan.

Police said Morgan carried a handgun. He is wanted on three counts of murder, one of attempted murder and seven counts of robbery, Thompson said.

Authorities have not released the victims’ names. The fourth victim’s injuries are not believed to be life-threatening, Thompson said.

Public records show that Morgan pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor assault charge in 2012, AL.com reported.

— Associated Press

Two men held for stealing endangered deer in Florida: Two Florida men were caught with three endangered Key deer tied up in their car, authorities said. Erik Acosta Damas, 18, and Tumani Anthony Younge, 23, were arrested early Sunday morning, the Miami Herald reported. Wildlife officials said a Monroe County deputy who pulled the men’s car over on Little Torch Key for having a broken taillight found two does in the back seat and a buck in the trunk. The animals were untied and released. National Key Deer Refuge Manager Dan Clark said the deer, which grow to the size of a large dog, had been captured on Big Pine Key. The federally protected deer are found only in the Florida Keys, where their population is about 600 to 800 animals. Damas and Younge each face three felony and nine misdemeanor charges.

— Associated Press